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ball overhanging hole

You’ve misunderstood the 10-second rule – this is why

Lee Hodges picked up a PGA Championship penalty after his ball overhung the hole and took too long to drop. Viewers complained it was still moving when it finally fell but, as our Rules of Golf expert explains, it made no difference

 

When is a ball not moving? When you’ve reached the hole and it overhangs the cup for more than 10 seconds.  

If that sounds like a particularly bad riddle, let me explain. Lee Hodges picked up a one stroke penalty during the third round of the PGA Championship after his putt to save par at the 17th hole at Oak Hill hung precariously on the lip of the hole.

Having walked up behind the hole, a statement from the PGA Championship rules committee said he then waited more than 10 seconds.

“The ball then fell into the hole, after the 10-second limit provided for in the Rule. As a result, Hodges received a one-stroke penalty, under Rule 13.3a, and the ball was holed”.

All very straightforward and a textbook application of the rule. But it still had social media deriding the decision as dumb and “the worst rule in golf”.

There was a source for their ire. Some viewers considered the ball was still moving. Hodges’ playing partner, Jordan Spieth, certainly thought so too, saying “I think it’s gonna go.”

The key bit of the ball overhanging hole rule that you’ve missed

But there’s a key part of Rule 13.3a that armchair viewers may have missed. It is that once the player has reached the hole and when the 10 seconds have elapsed, if the ball hasn’t fallen into the hole in this time it is treated as being at rest.

From that point, it doesn’t matter at all if the ball is still moving. It’s irrelevant.

Once those 10 seconds are up, so is the opportunity for the ball to fall into the hole. You’re not hitting a moving ball – even if it is oscillating, wobbling, or shifting off its spot – because the rules no longer consider it to be a moving ball.

You can, of course, argue over whether that time limit is sufficient. When you think about it, though, there is a very good reason for having a limit and then treating the ball as coming to rest.

Otherwise, you could theoretically spend ages hovering over a ball hoping it will finally fall into the cup.

So when the ball doesn’t fall into the hole in the waiting time, it is at rest. If gravity then takes over, the player has holed out with their previous stroke but gets one penalty shot added to their score.

Got a question for our expert?

Despite the changes to the Rules of Golf in 2019 and 2023, there are still some that leave us scratching our heads. I’ll try to help by featuring the best of your queries in this column.

What do you think of the ball overhanging hole in golf rule? Has it ever happened to you on the golf course? Let me know with a tweet.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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